The Prophets of Eternal Fjord

The Prophets of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine Martin Aitken Read Free Book Online

Book: The Prophets of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine Martin Aitken Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kim Leine Martin Aitken
brings strong frost. The hearses are busy, and the corpses that arrive at the vaults beneath the academy are well preserved, delicate almost, unsmelling and as white as snow. After Laust’s disap­pearance, Morten has stopped collecting bodies around town, but he earns a small sum from his drawings, which are more detailed than ever before, and some now hang upon the walls of the academy’s teaching rooms.
    Morten sees the carriages come to the printer’s house with young men, who bound up the step to be welcomed inside. Suitors. He is little con ­cerned with the matter. At the eleventh hour he has found interest in his theology studies and spends many hours each day at the university’s library. Moreover, he has taken on work teaching small boys a couple of days a week at the Vajsenhus orphanage. Now when he goes to the Procurator Gill on the first weekday of each month it is to bring money to his account, rather than to request a withdrawal, and he receives a receipt as evidence of growing savings. He lives cheaply and sensibly and goes seldom into town. His excursions outside the city gate are made on foot and rarely further than to Valby Bakke, where he sits near Frederiksberg Palace and gazes out across the semicircle of frozen lakes and the rampart, the thoroughfare of Vesterbrogade to his right, and behind the ramparts the steeples and spires and hundreds of smoking chimneys. He has no idea what he might do when his studies are com ­pleted this coming summer. Perhaps he will continue to teach. Perhaps seek a living. But finding a living is difficult, the competition is stiff. And where would he want to go?
    Winter. The frost is beneficial insofar as it freezes the city’s filth and excrement, making it easier to walk about without becoming soiled in the gutter or bespattered by carriage wheels. The stench of the latrine buckets is less penetrating. On the other hand, a thick and immovable blanket of coal smoke enshrouds the city, and people die by the hundreds from lung disease or else they simply freeze to death. He himself is in good health. He has hardly had a cold since his arrival here and the various epidemics of fever sicknesses have passed by his door. The print room beneath his chamber is kept well heated, for otherwise the ink becomes stiff; and, besides this good fortune, his room is equipped with a small tiled stove, which he may light as need arises. He fetches the coals from the printer’s coal bunker and pays a fixed sum each month. Apart from this, he spends much time at the university, which, though not exactly warm, nevertheless maintains a tolerable temperature. For his sake, the cold and the winter may continue. It reminds him of his child­hood and the native place from which he hails and which now more often seems distant to him.
    One evening he proceeds shivering along Vestergade in the direction of the rampart. In this district of the city live many ale brewers and distillers of aquavit, and every other stairway contains a drinking estab­lishment whose enticing yellow light beams into the snow. He goes inside at one place where the window is illuminated, driven by an acute need for human company. There is music and some singing, men play cards, a fire roars in a tiled stove, tobacco smoke gathers below the ceiling joists. The atmosphere appears relaxed. At a table a boy is seated alone. He sits down opposite him and orders a mug of ale. He meets the youngster’s gaze, but neither says a word in greeting. He looks foreign. A Gypsy, Morten guesses. Perhaps a Jew.
    Morten receives his ale. He sips.
    Is it cold? the boy asks in the dialect of Sjælland.
    Yes, the night is cold. Bitterly cold.
    The boy stares at him wearily. His eyes droop towards his mouth. His Adam’s apple ascends and descends. Morten wishes he could move to another table. He hears himself say: Will you join me in a mug?
    Aye, says the boy quickly. I

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